CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Lowcountry and beyond is mourning the loss of a literary legend. Best-selling author, Pat Conroy passed away at age 70 after announcing he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer less than a month ago.
"It was the 35th reunion of Pat's graduating class," says long time friend Andy Solomon remembering that being the first time he met Conroy in person.
Solomon is the Associate Athletic Director of the Citadel, when they met in 2002 they had never seen each other.
"He says, well I look like Santa Clause without the beard and I was like okay I look like Jerry Seinfeld without the wallet," says Solomon "When we saw each other we described each other correctly, we fashioned a very good relationship from there."
At the time Solomon was working in communications at the Citadel.
"I knew that the Citadel and Pat were estranged at the time, but I treated it like any other request," says Solomon.
It was a request to help gather research for Conroy's book "My Losing Season" about his experience as a Citadel basketball player.
The school and Conroy were 'estranged' because of the book he wrote, "Lords of Discipline." It was based on his experiences at the Citadel, and graduated cadets felt it misrepresented the school. Since then things have changed.
"A former Citadel graduate, a couple of years ago, said he was required to read every Conroy book," says Darryl Woods an English teacher and an associate librarian. "That's something the Citadel is now requiring of their Cadets."
Woods says all of Conroy's books were checked out at the Charleston County Library today. He remembers reading his book, 'The Great Santini,' in high school.
"There's a few books I can point to in my life that I can say, this just wasn't a book that changed how I thought about literature but how I felt about life," says Woods.
"The thing about Pat almost everyone knew about the superb writer that he was, but I got to know him as a basketball player," says Solomon.
Solomon says in 1967 Conroy was voted as the MVP by his team, and he played baseball too.
"He wrote me a letter that basically credited me with bringing him back into the Citadel fold and we have been friends for a long time."
Solomon's memories with Conroy are still fresh on his mind.
"I was sitting in the front seat as he was driving around the city and he put his ball cap down low and he put his sunglasses on," says Solomon. "He would wave out to the tourists and he would say if they only knew who was waving to him. He liked to have fun."